The Costco Effect

Oddly enough, the title of this post was something I have mulled over for awhile and tonight felt like the appropriate time to discuss it.  The reason being – developers are breaking ground on a new, very sizable Costco complex in our city as I type.  My ignorant coworkers are wildly excited for even better access to awful food and useless crap.  I am sickened by the sum of its parts, from the food, to the hoards of dolts the establishment attracts, and let’s not forget the heinous ripple effect of traffic congestion on our surrounding streets.  Finally, I realize more and more how we have completely lost sight of what real, good food is, where it comes from, how it is grown and why the fuck all of the answers to those questions are actually important to our bodies and our world.

I could go on and on about the importance of organic food, sustainable farming, the benefits of primarily eating plant-based, and the need for major changes in our world.  In fact, I think I already have in prior posts.  My heart aches for anything less than success in all of those realms, for all of our animals and all of our people, primarily the little ones that are being born into a world that is slowly killing itself.  Because of all this, the idea of yet another Costco, where the wool is pulled over the mass consumer’s eyes even further, makes me sad and a bit ill.

Despite not trying to be that person at work (you know, the one who has strong opinions and pushes them on others), my coworkers periodically ask me questions.  These questions usually stem from them observing me eating, drinking, or doing something that appears foreign to them.  They normally look and watch, then either ask what it is or make fun of it for what it isn’t.  Either way, I respond with the facts and I always make sure to use that brief moment to teach them a little something about food and its source, without coming off as a cocky, know-it-all bitch!  Sounds easy but you straddle a fine line while doing so.  Sadly, despite the age, formal education or income bracket of the inquiring party, the statistics I have observed are as follows – plain and simple, the vast majority of people are completely clueless about their food.  They couldn’t tell you how it is grown, what chemicals are applied, what the hidden words in their ingredient list mean, and they certainly couldn’t explain the difference between the terms natural and organic.

I don’t write this to mock anyone and I sure hope it doesn’t come across that way.  To be honest, my heart breaks for this lack of knowledge among the masses because those are the consumers that support poor farming practices, by purchasing heavily sprayed veggies, and sickening animal welfare standards, by stocking up on bargain meat from Sam’s Club and the like.  To think, those animals were raised in captivity, provided with pathetic living conditions with the cheapest, nutritionally-absent food, confined to small spaces without bright sunlight or free movement of their bodies, and possibly never knowing what touching grass to their hooves or toes feels like in their lives.  Those are the same cows and pigs you may see piled high in the stainless cargo compartment of the tractor trailers speeding down the freeway past you during your morning commute.  Next time you see them on their first and final trip out into the world, take a moment to think of what their life was like and how it impacts yours.  After those animals have experienced that life (if you can call it that), you purchase their meat on sale by the pound for consumption by your entire family.  Imagine what you are putting into your body and to be honest, it is almost all in vain.  Not only did that poor soul give their life to ‘you’, but you don’t even understand it, you don’t appreciate it, you don’t deserve it and even if you did, it wasn’t good for you.  The whole thing wasn’t good for anyone and that makes me cry.  When I see the tractor trailer on the freeway, I cry for them and I continue to pledge to never support that sickening cycle.

Ok, I ranted.  I promised I wouldn’t rant but I can’t help that I care so deeply about these topics.  As my mom and I always say, if we won the lottery we would buy a huuuuuuuuuuuge piece of land, adopt all of the shelter pets and set them free.  After writing the above paragraph, maybe I would try to educate people just a little bit more.  Rather than allowing people to idly muddle through life, uneducated about the very choices they are making on a bi-weekly basis at Costco, maybe I could offer a little glimpse into a solution.  To me, the solution is a combination of better choices regarding how we farm, better choices with what we regularly eat, and better thinking about this planet we are slowly killing.

Needless to say, Hugo and I won’t be getting a new Costco platinum membership upon our new store’s grand opening.

Oops, I almost forget.  I didn’t totally explain what ‘The Costco Effect’ meant to me.  So not only do my coworkers frequently ask me about my kombucha, spinach-powder colored pasta, or fermented hot sauce, but they also constantly flaunt the outstanding ribs they grilled (Costco brand), chicken they baked (Costco brand), or cake they devoured (Costco brand).  Somehow these people brag about this food as if it was not only delicious (which it isn’t, I have tried it guys), but it was also the best choice solely due to the price tag attached to it.  Somehow people have become so blinded by a price that quality and content have not just fallen at the wayside, they are not even present judgement factors during a purchase for them.  If the chicken is $2/pound, then it must be the best chicken.  That fucking chicken could be soaked in cyanide but if it is $2/pound, it will always beat my $10/pound organic, heirloom chicken any day.  I laugh at it for many reasons, one of which includes my argument that if you are going to ingest such low quality food, whether that is meat or not, you also always have the choice of opting out of eating crap and opting in to eating something else.  In this case, rather than the chicken, you could just eat a veggie salad with tofu or beans (I always choose beans).  That would require breaking this weird addiction many people have to eating meat in almost every meal, as the center of these meals, and that is an entirely different blog post (or book) all together.

I may be preaching to the choir and I may be preaching to no one that cares.  But I don’t care.  I just wanted to write about something I think about every day because my heart is in it.  I also know that I would rather spend $10/pound on anything in life, than compromise my body and the body of the man I love by cooking and eating garbage.  I also sleep soundly knowing I respect the land we all call home, my choices provide for healthy farming practices, and my $10/pound chicken gets to feel the sunshine on her beautiful feathers during her time on earth.

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PS – Thanks for listening because I really enjoyed writing that.  It felt like a therapy session and I could cry today, just as easily as I have many times before, about the poor animals.  Because of this, I included a picture of a truly beautiful little lady in this world, my mom’s mini pony named Brownie.  I took this picture during a trip to visit my parents last year.  She lives on their ten acre, organic farm, with her horse sister (from another mister) Shasta.  The two ladies cruise for fresh alfalfa grass in spring and summer and get doted on by my mom all year long.  Brownie, as all animals do, deserve every minute of it.

Twenty twenty

Happy New Year (plus three days) to anyone out there in this vast universe that is reading this.  As I always appear to be doing, I continue to marinate on all of the tasks I have left undone, all of the places and opportunities I want to explore, and, most importantly, how I want to devote the remainder of my time here on Earth.  I am about to receive an email from the California Department of Real Estate, that will allow me to schedule my state exam, and I am very excited about that finally happening.  With a new chapter of my life looming in the near future, I am antsy to begin.  Part of me wants to quit my job, jump head first into the real estate ocean, and give it everything I have.  The other practical part, which also has Hugo’s voice of reason anchored at the core, knows I should get licensed and begin working, while maintaining my current career.  Basically, see how it goes before fully committing and risking everything I have worked extremely hard for.  In short, it is tough because I feel this entrepreneurial fire burning in my soul and I am resounding to not grab the proverbial fire extinguisher.

Hugo and I finished out 2019 as strong as ever and that is my most proud accomplishment of the year.  After nearly sixteen years together, we grew even closer this year.  Not an easy feat after so much life together.  He has impressed me since the day I met him but the fact that he continues to age so beautifully, both on the inside and on the surface, is astonishing.  He has a heart of gold and he pours it into everything he does.  He showers me in kindness, care and love in everything he does, from cooking me gourmet vegetarian dishes to listening to me go on and on about my thoughts, fears and goals, on a daily basis.  I am so happy to have met him and even more thankful to call him my husband.

As the year drew to a close, we discussed what our collective relationship resolutions would be for this new decade.  We celebrated how far we have come and expressed the deep love we have for each other.  Love is the most vital aspect of existence and it permeates every culture and all species – we relished in the fact that ours is strong, healthy and meant to be.  He is my soulmate and I am his.  We looked into each other’s eyes and gazed upon the bodies that house the person we love the most.  As we did so, we resounded to continue trying to be better for one another, to communicate more effectively, to finish discussions respectfully rather than destructively engage in arguments, and to always make one another the top priority.  I am so impressed with having a partner who wants to keep growing, both personally and as a couple, with me.  If after 16 years together we have gotten to this place, I am excited to see where we go from here and lucky to be his wife and partner ♥

My hopes for this year, beyond my career and relationship aspirations, include the following items (some of them may appear cliche and to that I say, yeah!…cliche just means that a lot of people strive for similar things and that only makes me feel more united with those around me):  Take better care of myself, physically, mentally and spiritually.  Pursue my dreams of having more animals in our family.  Garden better and more beautifully around our home, for our visual pleasure and for the love of the thriving hummingbirds and others who call our organic acreage their home too.  Explore more of what Los Angeles, the United States of America and our globe has to offer.  Try new activities like falconry (we just discussed our plans for this today).  Visit more museums and read my unfinished books around the house.  And, finally, write more often.  All of my wants are positivity-fueled pursuits that are fun to me.  In fact, over the past couple weeks, I found my brain  dribbling out writing ideas that just kept coming to me – as they did, I jotted down notes on my cell phone, scribbled on scratch paper I have in every room of the house, and typed up email reminders of must-have blog post ideas.  My brain and heart want to speak so this audience better get ready to listen.

I wish the world more of what I am blessed to already have.  Hopefully you can understand who I am well enough by now to know that I do not intend to appear pretentious when I say that.  I only wish love for those without it in their hearts and lives.  Many people are walking alone in this world and they crave friendship and romance.  To them, I wish them a 2020 filled with new beginnings that will lead to love in their lives.  And to those in the world who do not treat others with love, by being unkind, rude, disrespectful, or, even worse, with hate, bias or violence, I wish more love into their hearts as well.  If we could all just learn to lead with love, many of our collective world problems would naturally dissipate into a thing of the past.  Finally, I wish more love onto all corners of our planet because we abuse her with toxic chemicals, deforestation, hurting the animals and ruining our oceans.  As everyone hears every day, we must act now to make significant changes in our world and that begins by loving the place we call home.  Let us all resolve to take better care of one another and our beautiful Earth as we embark on this new decade.

Clueless with cancer

As I wrote the title of this post, I felt a little bad, but not nearly bad enough to discontinue putting these serious thoughts on paper, so to speak, on this overcast, rather gloomy Sunday morning in California.  Not two days ago, I was down on the lower half of our property, letting our juvenile pups run around and get some fresh air.  As we walked towards the fence that borders the street, I saw a red 4×4 utility vehicle with my older female neighbor, Patty, driving, their elderly golden retriever Tommy on the middle seat and Mark sitting shotgun.  Mark, who is riddled with devastating bone cancer, had his old flannel shirt on, a smile on his face, and a three-foot sprayer wand in his hand.  As the threesome cruised along their curbline, Mark vigorously sprayed commercial-grade herbicide from his lethal contraption, as he has probably done multiple times a year for the whole of his life.  I immediately had several thoughts flood my mind – ‘Holy shit, that is disgusting!’, ‘Where are the dogs?’, ‘Are we downwind?’, and ‘I hope that shit doesn’t get on any of us or our property’.  Thankfully, he disarmed himself as they approached and they pulled over to chat for a moment.  Tommy and our pups played for about five minutes, Mark gave me the regular dreary update about his health status (just finished more chemo, feeling pretty terrible, but hanging in there), and I enjoyed a couple minutes with the two very sweet, but sadly clueless, neighbors in my life.

It breaks my heart that there isn’t an easier way to tell those you care for about things that matter or impact them.  Case in point – I want to scream from my rooftop to Mark’s that the chemicals he is using are poisonous, not only to him and his family but also to his poor dog, the deer who eat our grass, the rabbits who run through our open fields, and our suffering honeybees who pollinate our flowering hillsides in spring.  I also want to tell Mark about all of the recent court cases involving cancer patients winning their suits against Monsanto/Bayer, in which a judge determined the plaintiff’s cancer was caused by their exposure to the noxious product RoundUp.  Although it is sadly too late in Mark’s case, because he almost certainly cannot cure himself of his brutally aggressive disease, it pains me to think of someone ignorantly exposing themselves and those around them to something that is harmful, to say the least.  I also do not want that stuff anywhere near myself, Hugo, the dogs, or any of the other lovely creatures out there.

Sometimes there is a part of me that just wants to share what I know with those around me, regardless of how they interpret or digest it.  And that’s not to say I know a lot but I am conscious of what I use in my home, on my body and in my small world on our three-acre plot of earth.  That is all I have control over in this world so I make every effort to make smart, healthy and earth-conscious decisions wherever I can.  Because of my knowledge and consciousness, I want to help others, which in turn helps the rest of the world.  I wish I could just email them and tell them not to use certain products, with a detailed explanation as to why, but unfortunately, a lot of people (Mark and Patty included) would not only look at me sideways but they would also retort with ten reasons why spraying is better (cheaper and faster than manual labor, kills all of the weeds for the whole year, etc.).  I know the reasons because I have heard them before and when I do hear them, that is usually when I stop talking because clearly the battle isn’t worth having.  Especially between two sets of neighbors, one of which is fighting for their life, with an herbicide sprayer in hand.

Eat & Support Organics: For you, the animals and the planet

My husband Hugo and I have repeatedly experienced scenarios with coworkers and friends where they question why we eat organically.  When we sit with these people at lunch and they catch a glance of a drink or packaged item of food, we are often questioned regarding what it is and where its from.  Their aggressive line of questioning is often summed up with an awkward, uncomfortable look of relative disgust, since we are obviously the weird ones who eat strange things.  In addition, if we happen to say we bought the delicious and healthy item at Whole Foods, their look also encompasses a sprinkle of ‘you wealthy little snob who shops at the expensive grocery store.’

As I type up this quick synopsis of how almost every encounter with those around us at snack time goes, I realize, even more than before, how crazy this uneducated behavior truly is.  Both Hugo and I were not raised in an area or around people who were so confrontational and unfamiliar with quality sustenance.  And honestly, this shit gets annoying because we eat organically for a variety of reasons, none of which the majority of people understand.  After awhile, I get tired of being asked what I’m drinking (kombucha), explaining what it is and why its delicious and nutritious, and then receiving a rude look and snarky comment.  In my opinion, those who are eating conventionally deserve the scowl, seeing as the farming process degrades the earth, the involved animals, and our bodies.  I guess I could go on about this forever and I do truly wish I had more, well organized time to retort when confronted.  In the end, my intentions are to educate others about my personal, multi-faceted love for organics and why it should be important to everyone.

First off, growing and producing organic food is the only sustainable, long-term approach we should have and need to have.  With the bulk application of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, conventional farmers are killing their overworked soil, allowing lethal run-off into our streams, rivers and oceans (which in turn contribute to algae blooms), and killing our bees.  Our poor honey bees – the mass army of soldiers who pollinate nearly all of our food, therefore enabling us to eat and survive as a species – are dying at a rapid and alarming rate, primarily as a result of exposure to the main, cancer-causing ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate.  It is disgusting, scary and widely used by ignorant people everywhere and, in turn, honey bees nationwide are meeting a sad, toxic fate.  While I could write about our declining honey bee population all day long, please read more via my included links.

Second, raising organic meat and planting and harvesting organic produce is the only ethical and healthy way to farm.  Organic standards for animals require the livestock to be free of antibiotics and hormones and to be fed a strict diet of organic feed.  In addition, the majority of organic meat producers also provide lovely quarters for their animals, which include large outdoor areas, access to grass and fresh air, and living conditions that do not include overcrowded, factory-style barracks.  Of course all of these variables are dependent on the type of animal and the farm’s location on the globe.

Finally, eating organically is good for you!  When fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, dairy and everything else we ingest, is humanely raised without synthetic pesticides and other chemicals, the antioxidant level is drastically higher, the taste speaks for itself and the human being actually consuming it is not coating their insides with carcinogenic sludge.  Case in point – Dr. Mercola attests to increased antioxidant levels and the Pesticide Action Network explains pesticide accumulation in our bodies.

I will never forget the car ride with my mom from a short few years back that is forever ingrained in my photographic memory.  While driving home from a long, relaxing day at the beach, during one of her many trips to visit Hugo and I on the opposite coast from her, we took the scenic route through the massive expanse of citrus farms just west of our house.  While winding through this particular farmland in the late afternoon, off to the right of the car we both observed one of the more disturbing things I have seen – a man wearing a full-body, hazmat style suit, face mask and boots spraying chemicals on a crop.  Although our observation only lasted for a brief moment as we passed by, the image was forged into both of our minds and we continue to talk about how sad and frustrating it was to see.

To think of just how much and how often pesticides are sprayed on conventional crops is beyond troubling because my heart hurts for the school kids who are inhaling the fumes and being coated with the particulate mist downwind from these commercial farms.  My heart hurts for the farm workers who may not be educated on the effects of exactly what they are using on a daily basis, or maybe they are yet they need the income and are willing to take on the extreme health risks from exposure so they can provide for their families.  My heart hurts for the cows, pigs, chickens and every other innocent animal who is pumped with hormones or antibiotics, or both, to increase their size, up their production and keep them sickness-free, since they are overcrowded and not taken care of, thus leading to poor health and zero immunity.  When the herbicides run into the ground water or enter a farmland adjacent stream, slowly flowing into larger bodies of water and eventually into the ocean, they pollute our oceans, kill those who live there and contribute to deadly algae blooms.  My heart hurts when beaches are closed and fish are floating dead to the surface.  And finally, my heart hurts to think of a developing baby being exposed to mass amounts of pesticides as their uneducated mother eats our mass-market fast food around the clock, polluting her body and the blood supply to her unborn son or daughter.  In the end, my heart just hurts.

So, given my thoughts and raw emotions behind why I care so much about organics, it really makes me both mad and sad when all of these people I engage with at work or in public either have no idea about what it means to eat organic or they scoff at the idea of a quality, non-toxic item costing $1 more.  Their lack of manners, common sense, and brain cells astounds me but, regardless, I will always continue to explain what kombucha is, tell them where I bought it, and say, with a big smile, that it tastes delicious.  I’ll do this probably until the day I die because you never know, maybe my rambling about the honey bees might just change someone’s mind.

Disgusting

A girl that I work with was bitten by a black widow while working a few days ago.  Not a huge deal since it is SoCal where black widows, among other spider species, are common.  Also not that devastating of a situation seeing as she only sustained swelling and mild discomfort.  The most frustrating aspect of the entire ordeal is that fact that our organization has decided to drastically increase their application of insecticides.  They intend to do so by having our contracted pest control company come to spray in more areas of our building and on a more frequent basis.

I am so disturbed by this response, considering the building itself is old and extremely dirty.  Rather than cleaning and approaching a potential bug problem with a natural, common-sense approach, our management, who is not health conscious in the least, went with the quick fix.  I understand that pesticides and insecticides are household products that countless citizens use in their homes without thought.  However, I am not one of them and I do not appreciate having to be exposed to toxins based on others’ ignorance.  I wish people would educate themselves regarding the risks of exposure to chemicals and be more aware of how they were taking care of themselves and one another.

Fight for farmers and vote with your dollars

I can’t believe that as a 34-year-old, independent working woman, I am about to say…I am bogged down with schoolwork!  As I scroll through endless syllabus pages that outline research papers and a multitude of assignments, I can’t help but think, “What have I gotten myself into?”  In the end, it is a very good thing and I am quite pleased that I am back to school, back to school, as Adam Sandler would say.

Just a heads up to anyone out there that cares (and honestly people, everyone should care about this insanely important issue), the Farm Bill is back on Congress’ agenda this week.  Read about it, sign a petition and have a voice in changing our country’s pitiful environmental policies.

Also, a local community organizer in Ventura County, which is adjacent to our home, wrote this blog post about the heavy use of chlorpyrifos in Ventura County that I enjoyed reading earlier today.  Educate yourself on the toxins that are being applied to the conventionally grown foods that you eat.  I have personally driven past the farms they describe in this article – on any given day you can observe farm workers in hazmat-style suits applying chemicals to strawberries and other crops.  It really makes you sick.

My dad sent me a cool link this morning to a company called The Cornucopia Institute so I thought I would share it here.  This link provides all US-based organic dairy farms with a rating, based on their farming practices and care for their animals.  It is interesting to see that all organic brands are not equal, with vast and shocking differences existing between the highest and lowest ranking names.  What I learned from this ranked list is that the majority of large grocery store chains, who have in-house organic brands, are among the lowest ranking.  These bottom-dweller brands are doing the bare minimum to be in compliance for organic certification and I don’t think I will be supporting them anymore.  Hugo and I chatted about the rankings and were happy to see that the brands we normally buy (Stonyfield, Annie’s Homegrown, Organic Valley, etc.) are at least 4 cow brands!

As a final note, I urge anyone that is reading this to think long and hard about what you put into your body and what kind of planet you want to live on.  I personally don’t want to ingest chemical-coated strawberries and genetically modified sweet corn, swim in algae-bloom ponds next to golf courses with bountiful herbicide run-off, or drink milk from cows who have been fed low quality grain, locked in a dark barn, absent sunlight and love, all while being injected with hormones to increase milk production.  Consider the choices you make at the supermarket as an election – every time you buy an item, you are placing a vote for the company, the farming practices and the animals that fall victim to it all.  I choose to vote with my dollars to support those who care about our health and the earth at large and I sure hope you do too.

 

Major victory for the environment and Dewayne Johnson – Say NO to RoundUp!

If you haven’t seen the headline yet, there was a major victory today for environmental justice and a very sick man.  Monsanto, the agricultural giant who is responsible for the grossly popular weedkiller RoundUp, was ordered to pay $289 million to Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper who developed cancer as a result of being exposed to the herbicide (primary ingredient of glyphosate).  Read the full article here.

This victory hopefully signifies a shift in the wind regarding the widespread and accepted use of this harsh chemical.  Despite multiple scientific studies, and the horribly sick people to prove its harmful effects, companies such as Monsanto are able to weasel their way into the pockets of the EPA and lawmakers.  Glyphosate is still widely used in the US despite being banned in Europe (the EU tends to be much more environmentally progressive and intelligent than the US most of the time).  We can only hope that this landmark case will continue to move our country closer to ridding our farm workers’ and landscapers’ hands from this nasty toxin.